WASHINGTON – President Obama has to persuade not just Congress on military intervention in Syria. New polling shows the American public is highly skeptical of the administration’s plan for limited missile strikes in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
Fifty-nine percent of Americans oppose unilateral U.S. military action, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday soon after Pew Research found that opponents of a strike outnumber supporters, 48% to 29%.
The divide tightens when Americans are asked about missile strikes conducted in conjunction with allied nations, with 51% in opposition and 46% in favor, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Americans are even more opposed to providing weapons to rebel forces in Syria, with 70% siding against a step that Obama has already decided to take, according to Pew.
Opposition to intervention appears to have grown since polling conducted last week by NBC News, which found a 50%-42% split against U.S. military action in response to the use of chemical weapons.
At the root of this opposition is not widespread skepticism about the chemical weapons attack , as 53% told Pew that there was clear evidence the Syrian government did carry it out.
One possible cause is the belief that Obama has yet to clearly state his case for action, with just 32% of Americans saying he has done so and 48% saying he has not, according to Pew.
Those who believe Obama has not offered an adequate explanation includes higher percentages of Republicans (60%) and independents (54%) than Democrats (33%). Pew’s polling was partly conducted after Obama’s Saturday address to the nation on his decision to ask Congress for its approval of any military response.
There’s little optimism about the possible aftermath of missile strikes, with 74% thinking they would prompt a backlash against the U.S. and allies, 61% predicting a long-term military commitment and just 33% thinking they would prevent the use of chemical weapons in the future, according to Pew.
Pew’s poll was conducted from Thursday to Sunday among a random sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted Wednesday to Sunday among a random sample of 1,012 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 points. Both were conducted through land lines and cellphones.